London: Arsene Wenger has hit back at Jose Mourinho by insisting he wasn’t using gamesmanship when he picked Alexandre Lacazette to face Manchester United 24 hours after saying he would miss the game with a groin injury.
France striker Lacazette was a surprise selection for Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat against United last weekend as Gunners boss Wenger had stated he would miss the game due to the injury he suffered against Huddersfield at half-time.
Instead, Lacazette was fit to start at the Emirates Stadium and scored Arsenal’s goal.
United manager Mourinho made a pointed jibe towards Wenger when asked about his team news ahead of Sunday’s derby against early Premier League pace-setters Manchester City.
“I’m telling the truth,” Mourinho said when listing the availability of some of his players. “It’s the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette or (Manchester City midfielder) David Silva. All the truth.”
Wenger, speaking ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League game against BATE Borisov, was asked about Mourinho’s comments and said he was expecting to go into the United game without the former Lyon star.
“I thought he wouldn’t play. In the end, he could play. What did you want me to do, leave him at home?” Wenger said on Wednesday.
“I’m always honest. I thought really that he wouldn’t play, that’s what I had been told.
“After, he had a test on Friday morning and went to the game. We weren’t sure he would play but he tried and he played, that’s part of football.”
Arsenal welcome Belarusian Premier League champions BATE on Thursday having already sealed top spot in Group H.
Wenger has made mass changes throughout the competition, handing valuable game time to the likes of Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud.
Even though progression into the last 32 has been assured, the Frenchman still intends to play those on the fringes of the first team, rather than blood a team of youngsters.
Asked how winning the group would affect his team selection, Wenger said: “Not too much, because I have many players available who need competition.
“Next week we go into a week with three games and so some players need competition, some experienced players. We’ll play quite an experienced team tomorrow.”
Wenger also warned the injury-plagued Wilshere to be careful when ice skating after pictures emerged of the midfielder with his family at a rink earlier in the week.
“It’s not ideal. For your balance it’s not bad but for a footballer I don’t think it’s great. It depends as well on what you do,” he said.
“You can do ice skating by bringing your child on and just making sure nothing happens to him, or (you can do) ice skating violently, I don’t think he did that.”